White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will be shut down for at least the next three weeks after his most recent medical check, as J.J. Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com reports. While his MRI showed that he hasn’t suffered a fracture, the stress reaction is causing enough swelling to require a walking boot and further down time.
It’s obviously good news for the organization to find that Tilson doesn’t have a broken bone. On the other hand, it seems there’s little he can do to address his actual ailment other than rest and hope for a speedy recovery. That leaves an opening, at least for the earliest portion of the season.
The Sox aren’t necessarily in desperate straits without Tilson, who suffered a season-ending hamstring tear in his first MLB game last year after being acquired in the deadline deal that sent Zach Duke to the Cardinals. Though Tilson had been slated to handle primary duties in center in 2017, the rebuilding club isn’t placing much of a priority on near-term production. That said, every role on every team presents both a need and an opportunity, and his absence will impact the market.
There are a few options on hand, as Stankevitz notes. Peter Bourjos seems the obvious choice, as he was likely slated to earn a bench role regardless and has ample experience up the middle. The speedy veteran hasn’t proven that he can reach base consistently, of course, but that’s the same limitation that made him available on a minor-league deal.
The two other alternatives lack MLB experience and have somewhat similar profiles to Bourjos, but might at least provide some competition or factor into the fourth outfielder conversation. Adam Engel, a prolific base stealer who’ll play the upcoming season at 25 years of age, hit well in 357 plate appearances at Double-A (.255/.352/.412) but struggled in his 161 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors (.242/.298/.369). And Jacob May, a switch-hitter who’s also 25, spent all of 2016 at Triple-A, where he hit .266/.309/.352 and swiped 19 bags over 321 trips to the plate.
While it may not be of much interest, the White Sox could still consider looking at the free-agent market to supplement this group. Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, and Angel Pagan all have plenty of MLB experience in center, to be sure. Alternatively, Chicago could look to be aggressive on the waiver wire (or in snapping up veterans with opt-outs) as teams make tough 40-man calls over the coming weeks.